Hempstead is switching from disaster mode to recovery mode by bringing services to residents and easing rebuilding restrictions, town officials said.
The town will waive permitting fees - an expense that can cost $2,500 or more - for rebuilders, said Supervisor Kate Murray. The town's $50 "trailer fee" for residents who need a temporary trailer during rebuilding is also waived, she said.
The town plans to bring a "mobile town hall" to heavily damaged waterfront communities in the coming days. The mobile halls will allow residents to fill out permit applications associated with rebuilding, officials said.
The building department will also expand hours to 8 a.m . to 6 p.m., officials said. Building and zoning fees are also waived, officials said.
Building inspectors will be walking neighborhoods and assisting residents on Saturdays and Sundays, Murray said.
"We're trying to bring our operations to the neighborhoods that are very hard-hit," Murray said. "You get past the storm, well now I have to rebuild my life."
Councilman Gary Hudes added: "A week ago people were thinking about how they were going to have over for Thanksgiving. Now their lives are turned upside down."
Seventy-five percent of downed trees in Hempstead have been removed and the remaining ones will be removed by tomorrow, except for the trees entangled with electrical wires, Murray said.
FEMA plans to set up a trailer at Merrick Road Park, Murray said. The county OEM also plans to set up meal trucks at town parks in the coming days, she said.
Two people who will benefit from free permitting, Donna and Lenny D'Andrea, are living in their Levittown home despite a challenging intrusion - an approximately 50-foot-tall tree that landed in their master bedroom during the storm.
The four-bedroom, 1,500-square foot Rose Lane home lacks heat, hot water and power because of the storm.
"We've been staying upstairs," said Donna. "It's very cold."
The tree damaged the home, garage, driveway and unearthed a chunk of sidewalk. A contractor hired by the family said the damage will likely take $10,000 to $15,000 to repair, which will take a week to ten days.
The family has bought tarps to place on the roof when the tree is removed.
Donna said Hempstead Town's decision to waive permitting fees for rebuilding residents is "a big help." The fees would likely cost the family several hundred dollars, town officials said.
Donna, an office worker, said she was in the bathroom, and Lenny, an MTA supervisor, was in the living room when the tree hit.
"Everything rattled and things came off shelves," Donna said.
Cats Bella and Mia were unharmed.
"What are you going to do? It is what it is, man," said Lenny.